Allegations of unfair labour practices and mismanagement of funds continue to dog Botswana’s community-run brigades, in the end frustrating efforts by the Botswana government to take over their operations.
In the latest developments the Kweneng Rural Development Association and Trust (KRDAT) and the Tertiary and Allied Workers Union are pitted against each other in a bitter war of words, with allegations of funds misappropriation and unfair labor practices flying thick and fast.
In reaction, the Tertiary Trainers and Allied Workers Union (TAWU) have sworn that they will not agree to any hand over to government until their members’ grievances are amicably settled.
While the allegations of mismanagement at the KRDA have been doing the rounds for some time, things came to a head recently when an employee of the organization, Leteng Kitso, was sacked after he was accused of leaking internal information about the goings on at the brigade to the media.
It has emerged that the KRDAT has since 2002 been misappropriating funds obtained from donors like the Japan Funds Project, government subsidies and even financial institutions, instead using them to settle unexplained debts.
The KRDAT management made an agreement through which they would assist their employees to access loans from financial institutions, and pay back directly from their salaries. However, employees allege that the money that was deducted from their salaries was never channeled towards payment of their loans, but was rather used to settle the massive debts that the KRDAT is mired in. The employees said that they only got to realize that when the financial institutions contacted them to inform them that they had still not honored their financial obligations.
“Employees, most of whom are our members, then rushed to us to complain,” intimated an official from TAWU.
The brigade management initially denied misappropriating the employees’ salaries, but later accepted the wrong and made an obligation to correct the slight.
When they still did not get satisfactory answers from management, the disgruntled employees sought outside intervention, and the issue later came to the attention of the media. In the end Kitso became the sacrificial lamb as he was accused of leaking the story of the mismanagement at KRDAT to the press.
TAWU President Allan Keitseng said on Monday that they will fight tooth and nail to protect their members’ interests, even if it means deferring the brigades take over, which is scheduled for March 2010.
“We will not agree to any take over until the KRDAT has observed all the requisite processes, including appropriate payment of terminal benefits due to all the affected employees” he said.
TAWU has since filed a dispute challenging Kitso‘s dismissal with the Office of the Commissioner of Labor.
Meanwhile, information passed to The Telegraph shows that the KRDA is so mired in debt that they could not resist the temptation to divert subsidies from the Department of Vocational Education and Training(DVET) and Japan, as well as more than P300 000 in cash from Cash Bazaar Holdings lease payments.
An official of DVET said that they are willing to defer the hand over process, and solve the issues at hand first, so as not to create any anxieties.